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i live in the state of california and i have the following questions:
1. my father who also lives in california, wants to make revisions to his will to change the distribution percentages to each of the beneficiaries. the attorney that originally prepared his will is no longer around, would it be better/cheaper to make up a new will or prepare a codicil?
2. is it necessary to update a beneficiary's name and address after marriage and moving?
3. is it necessary to make a new will if a witness dies before my father does?
4. is there a way for my father to transfer the title of his house to me so that i can avoid estate taxes?



If a witness died (as the witness may be needed for probate) it may be wise to get a new Will prepared. Most lawyers charge about the same for a Will as for a Codicil. Only if there may be some question as to your father's mental competence, or power to act freely (no duress, fraud, etc.) would a Codicil be preferable.

Transfer of title to you would not save estate taxes as the value of the house uses uppart of the lifetime exemption on which estate taxes are based. If there is a BIG estate, or your father is ill, make sure you get some good estate tax planning. Sometimes a transfer to a trust may make sense, but usually it's more hassle than its worth.


MAY 7, 2001


(1) The codicil would be cheaper, but it would be better (better protection for the beneficiaries to insure that there is an ironclad, official record of your father's intentions) to give the will to a new attorney and have a new will typed (with the newly changed percentages). Since the new attorney would merely be reviewing the work that has already been done, his fee would be cheaper than if he had to draft a completely new will for your father.

(2) Under normal circumstances, it is not absolutely necessary to update the beneficiary's name and address (after marriage and moving), since these changes could be reported to the executor at any time before or after the death. However, if you know for sure that a new will is going to be prepared, then of course it would make sense to have the newer name information shown on the document.

(3) A new will is not needed if a witness dies, since the validity of the signature is not affected.

(4) The best strategy to avoid estate taxes can only be discussed in person with an attorney or accountant.


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